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Nicki Minaj: Coming From the Caribbean Country Trinidad and Tobago @nickiminaj

Updated on October 20, 2017

Nicki Minaj needs no explanation. Her ubiquitous eccentric personality is never far from the spotlight. Boasting achievements such as In 2010, Nicki Minaj received a MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best New Artist, and since then she has received multiple awards.

But where did she come from?

“Undisputed hailing all the way from Trinidad”, she declares in All I Do Is Win Remix.

In Beautiful Sinner, she declares “Trinidad Trinidad, my island”

Trinidad? Is that some kind of animal. The twin-island state of Trinidad and Tobago is found in the Caribbean. Minaj left the island at only 5 years of age, but she continues to embrace her heritage, mentioning, celebrating and sometimes damaging the country’s image on the global scene. Described as a ‘melting pot’ of many cultures, famous for its Carnival, known as the greatest show on earth, the music of steelpan (steel drums), soca, chutney and calypso. Its cultural diversity has given rise to many varieties of succulent dishes. Much more than sun, sand and sea, it boasts rainforest waterfalls, and impressive ecotourism with over 450 species of bird, 600 butterfly, and 700 orchid species. With numerous outdoor activities and nightlife to keep you entertained, if ever you are seeking to enjoy a tropical getaway, journey to the twin-island state, where you can enjoy the hustle and bustle in Trinidad or escape to the tropical paradise that is sister-island Tobago.

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Nicki, with Trinidadian celebrity, Machel Montano.
Nicki, with Trinidadian celebrity, Machel Montano.

Impact on Pop Culture

Pound the Alarm

Perhaps the biggest shout out to Trinidad by anyone, ever! The headlines were abuzz as Nicki Minaj declared that she was coming to Trinidad to shoot the video for her latest single, Pound the Alarm. She would require five hundred locals to volunteer to dress in full Carnival costume to simulate a mini-Carnival which would be the site of her new video shoot. I was curious as to why not wait until February when Carnival was in full swing, to shoot the video then, but I was grateful to see our culture being celebrated on the global stage. My cousin and I really wanted to go be part of the video, but there were some limitations – lack of carnival costumes being one of them. At the time of writing this article, the video had 85 million + views on Youtube.

The video opens to the majestic scenes of Trinidad and Tobago, accompanied by a version of “Pound the Alarm” played on steel drums; the Lady Hochoy Lookout which looks upon the capital city of Port of Spain, a new electronic type of steel drum, a coconut vendor chopping a coconut around the Queens Park Savannah, the Scarlet Ibis (the national bird of T+T), a waterfall, one of the many gorgeous beaches lining the entire coast, children playing football (soccer) and diving off a boat, a trip through the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, the Buccoo Reef in Tobago, the St. James arch, a sign which declares Trinidad and Tobago “The Home of Carnival” and the national flag of Trinidad and Tobago fluttering against wailing siren sounds are all shown, within just the first twenty seconds.

The video opens to Nicki singing in a bikini-type costume embellished in the pattern of the Trinidad flag, before she stomps through the streets of Port of Spain in a red Carnival costume, and are soon joined by a group of other costumed-up women. Typical Carnival sensation ensues. To those of you who are not familiar with the concept of Carnival, let me briefly explain: it takes place over the course of two days, a Monday and a Tuesday in February, before Ash Wednesday begins. It is not officially designated public holidays but most places shut down to enjoy the two days of carefreeness. It is two days when anything goes. Men and women line the streets, participate in bands, singing and gyrating as they parade down the streets, consuming alcohol and letting go of their inhibitions.

It is a time when Soca artistes release new music and compete for various prizes and honours. There are competitions for steel drum bands, for chutney (indian music-infused soca), for Carnival King and Queen, where they wear massive over-sized costumes and are judged on. For the children there is even “Kiddies’ Carnival” where the child dresses in conservative, vibrant costumes and play “mas”. For those of you into the full experience, you can leave your party or “fete” and attend J’ouvert which begins as early as 3 in the morning, to parade through the streets, while being plastered with mud, or paint or powder. It features typical “Old Mas” characters seen also in Minaj’s video such as the Blue Devils who spit fire from their mouths, the Dame Lorraine, , Jab Jab, Moko Jumbies – the ones seen walking on tall stilits, among others.

Many other Trinidadian artistes are seen with Minaj joining in the celebrations, such as Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons. Towards the end of the video, Minaj is seen with her cousins and wraps a bandana around her mouth. It truly is a celebration of Trini culture and a better advertisement for tourist than Trinidad would have been able to produce without her help. The only disappointing factor, was Nicki's lack of costume changes.

Nicki, dancing in front of a Trinidad flag, in 'Freaks'
Nicki, dancing in front of a Trinidad flag, in 'Freaks'

All I Do is Win

Towards the end of All I do Is Win (Remix), Minaj throws up several piles of blue dollars. This represents the Trinidadian $100 bills, the highest denomination currently in circulation.

Trinidadian currency in "All I Do Is Win"
Trinidadian currency in "All I Do Is Win"

Glee

In choosing to perform Nicki Minaj’s superbass, Sue Sylvester declares, “I will perform Nicki, due to my Trinidad roots.”

Freaks

In the “Freaks” music video by French Montana, Minaj is seen dancing in front of a Trinidad flag.

Controversies

Unfortunately, not all the light shone upon the country by Nicki has been the most flattering. Nicki Minaj inadvertently stated that 10% of Trinidad and Tobago’s population was suffering from AIDS, a figure which is ten-times higher than the actual statistic. I can forgive her on account of ignorance, but this can be damaging to the country’s reputation.

In another incident, whilst commenting on a Liberian-refugee’s success in the show American Idol, she states “I’m so proud that this place gives people like you and people like me, who came from absolutely nothing, a place that we didn’t think we’d make it out alive from, it gives us the chance. Thank you,”

Was she commenting on her own personal situation, or was she generalizing? Myself, a huge Nicki Minaj fan, found this statement distasteful and unfounded. Perhaps Nicki, as a 5 year old, had bad experiences living in the country… perhaps her family members were abusive, or dirt-poor? I do not believe Nicki meant any harm by her comment, and can forgive her only in light of the other ways in which she promotes the country.

Extra

Did I miss any incidents in which Nicki, (or any mainstream media source) mentioned Trinidad? Write it in the comments below.


Behind the Scenes of Pound the Alarm

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    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 4 years ago from Florida

      Great hub! I can't say I'm a fan of Nicki Minaj, but I admire her for proclaiming to the world that she is from Trinidad and Tobago and for promoting it in a positive light.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Got interested mainly because of your title reference to Trinidadian Roots; but I benefited from the information you had to share. Now, I even know something about Nicki Minaja; my kids will be amazed when I mention her name. Thanks for a good read. Voted Up!